This newsletter covers an update on the National Redress Scheme (the Scheme). It provides information on the National Memorial for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, an update on institutions and recent Scheme data.
The update contains material that could be confronting or distressing. Sometimes words or images can cause sadness or distress or trigger traumatic memories, particularly for people who have experienced past abuse or childhood trauma.
National Memorial for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
As the Scheme goes into its third year of operation, the Australian Government has committed to investing $6.7 million from the 2020-21 Budget to establish a National Memorial for Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (the National Memorial) in Canberra, with completion expected in 2022.
The Government will commission the National Memorial and consult with Victims and Survivors on the memorial design, scope, and purpose of an educative component.
An online survey to give all Australians a chance to have input is now open, visit www.engage.dss.gov.au.
Everyone is encouraged to take part, particularly those with lived experience of institutional child sexual abuse. Your views will play an important role in acknowledging the impact of institutional child sexual abuse and contribute to healing and educating future generations. The survey is anonymous and is open until Sunday 22 November 2020.
The Scheme is continuously working with institutions that have been named in applications or identified by other means to encourage them to join and participate in the Scheme. To date the Commonwealth, all state and territory governments and 303 non-government institutions covering around 53,300 sites such as churches, schools, homes, charities and community groups across Australia are participating.
A total of 158 non-government institutions have committed to join and finalise on-boarding by no later than 31 December 2020.
Recognizing common symptoms of childhood sexual abuse can help parents, caregivers, teachers, social workers, counselors and childcare staff alert the appropriate authorities and take proper steps to protect the welfare and safety of our children. It is far too often that I hear stories of adults, who fail to recognize that something is wrong with their child and attribute concerning changes in their kids’ behavior to temperament, age or other misguided explanations.
Because of this, I want to take a quick look at 11 common psychiatric symptoms experienced by victims of childhood sexual abuse but please keep in mind that this is not a diagnostic guide or a substitute for professional consultation. I have tried to clump together common symptoms that bring people (both children and adults) to the therapy office due to past history of childhood sexual abuse but this is by no means a comprehensive list and any of those symptoms taken separately may have other etiologies.
Depending on the age, specific nature of the sexual trauma and the temperament and coping skills of each person, the clinical presentation may look differently. If you have experienced any form of childhood trauma, abuse or neglect, you may identity with some of the behaviors and patterns discussed below. In that case, I would highly suggest seeking out some help.
1.Dissociation. Dissociation is probably the most common defense mechanism the mind employs to protect itself from the trauma of sexual assault. It is the escape of the mind from the body in times of extreme stress, sense of powerlessness, pain and suffering.
2. Self-Injurious Behavior (cutting, self-mutilation). Self-mutilation is another way survivors of trauma employ in an effort to cope with the experience of severe emotional and psychological pain. Some research shows that during cutting or self-mutilation, the brain releases natural opioids that provide a temporary experience or sense of calm and peace that many, who cut, find soothing.
3. Fear and anxiety. An overactive stress response system* is among the most common psychiatric symptoms in survivors of sexual trauma. This is manifested in extreme fear, social anxiety, panic attacks, phobias and hyper vigilance. It is as if the body is in a state of constant alert and cannot relax.
4. Nightmares. Just like the intrusive terrorizing memories of war veterans, survivors of sexual abuse often experience nightmares, intrusive thoughts and disrupted sleep.
5. Substance Abuse. Abusing substances is a common coping mechanism for people, who have experienced trauma. Even the “normal” experimentation with drugs of adolescence is not so “normal,” especially if you raised your kid to know the impact of drugs on the central nervous system, the consequences of addiction and the long-term effects of habitual drug use.
6. Hypersexualized behavior. This is a commonreaction to pre-mature sexual exposure or a traumatic sexual experience. If a child is too young to be excessively masturbating or is engaging in pre-mature sexual play or behavior, this is typically a sign that the child has witnessed, been a participant in or has been exposed to adult sexuality. In adolescence and adulthood, this can take the form of promiscuity, illegal sexual activity such as prostitution or participation in pornography, escort services, etc.
7. Psychotic-like symptoms. Paranoia, hallucinations or brief psychotic episodes are not uncommon for survivors of child sexual abuse.
8. Mood fluctuations, anger and irritability. Children are often unable to verbalize their feelings so instead, they act out on them. Sometimes, the same is true for adults. Mood fluctuations, irritability and disrupted neurotransmitter systems in the brain that present as depression, mania, anger and anxiety are common among trauma survivors.
9. Disrupted relationships and difficulties maintaining long-term friendships or romantic partners. Following the aftermath of sexual abuse, people are not experienced as safe, trustworthy and available so maintaining long-term relationships based on honestly is difficult and often tumultuous.
10. Regressive behaviors (mostly in children). Enuresis (bed wetting) and encopresis (involuntary soiling ones’ underwear with feces) in a previously potty-trained child, unexplained and sudden temper tantrums or violent outbursts, as well as clingy, uncontrollable or impulsive behaviors that were previously missing from a child’s way of being with others is another common indicator of something gone terribly wrong.
11. Physical complaints, psychosomatic symptoms or autoimmune responses of the body. Many clinicians from different schools of thought have written on the subject of the way the body stores and remembers trauma in response to the mind rejecting, forgetting or dissociating from the experience. Psychoanalysis terms these reactions “unconscious” as they express an experience out of language, out of words and often out of what is perceiveable by an individual.
When the unthinkable happens such as in several of the clinical cases described by Dr. Bruce Perry in his book “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us about Loss, Love and Healing,” the mind copes by mobilizing the body to express something that is otherwise inexpressible with words. We see in Dr. Perry’s neuroscientific approach to the understanding and treatment of traumatized children how the physical brain responds to the experience of trauma and how the mind communicates and eventually heals from this experience in the safety of the therapeutic relationship.
*I am borrowing the term “overactive stress response system” from Dr. Bruce Perry’s book “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us about Loss, Love and Healing.” Many of the symptoms I have listed in this post are also discussed in his book, including dissociation, self-mutilation and hyper sexualized behavior.
From the above chart’s simple 8 points, how many viewers know of these ordeals? Whether sexual or physical violence, they each are an act of VIOLENCE. Anyone’s childhood is meant to be appreciated, while we are raised to become ‘young adults’ at 18. The following image, may also remind some of the hardships as victims of their CSA teachers.
Coercion and threats
Minimising, denying and blaming
“Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised, dangerous situations, exposing them to sexual situations, or making them feel worthless or stupid are also forms of child abuse and neglect – and they can leave deep, lasting scars on kids.” (Harrison, The Minds Journal, 2020). The following are major forms of CSA:
Survival of any of the above listed actions, are strongly suggested to talk to someone else about it. It’s preferable that it be someone outside your immediate family, as there are many Counsellors available. NRS is also being updated, allowing for it to be easier for CSA victims to have their matters sorted – not impacting others (“minimising”).
INSTITUTIONS are identified, with description of many of scenarios dealt with in Australia’s Royal Commission (CARC) and the current National Redress Scheme. For the benefit of those Victims-Survivors that have come forth, we ask for you to consider coming forward. Counselling can be confidential, lodging an Application is when details begin to be made public.
Some Private Schools in NSW are supported outright by Religious bodies, also sharing traits with many of Brisbane’s CSA experiences (GPS). Coupled with the ‘Teacher-swapping’ habitus of GM Cujes and his involvement in the CARC, there’s been withdrawal of School Seniority from Catholic Schools and Change-of-Names. The ‘Christian Brothers’ (seriously, not satire) had withdrawn their church leadership (ABCNews 2019), appointing laymen to these Headmaster roles. As there had already been suspicious reputations of secrecy and cloister (ABCnews 2019 & BRA 2020). Thankfully the separations into ‘good’ Patients and ‘bad’ Patients extended to occasional medical checks at local hospitals. In keeping with canon law to remain completely anonymous to outside authorities (King 2019). Ironically the Patients who made the majority of the ‘bad’ group, were Catholic Christian Brothers. Seemingly, like persona forced themselves to flock together leading to give a negative impression on nurses who were used to serving a wider public audience.
Unsurprisingly, George Pell had perjured himself in his Defense of Gerald Ridsdale. As immortalised by the following photo, Pell would later be acquitted by an overruling Australian High Court (2020). Potentially on legal-technicalities, the multiple Judges overruled a previous Guilty Verdict of Pell. Now in the Catholic’s Vatican, Pell may be enjoying his escape from judicial trials yet as any CSA Victim-Survivour knows, their actions will leave their mark until the end.
Ironically, GM Cujes (although denouncing CARC allegations, 2016) achieved Headmaster of Trinity College. Previously St Patrick’s College, later renamed Trinity Catholic College by the Catholic Church. Changing names (persons, businesses & institutions) is frequently associated with desires to create distance from historic events of the previous namesake. Psychology, Justice and other fields acknowledge these facts. Unsurprisingly, GM Cujes had preferred to be referred to by his middle name whilst Headmaster of BBC (1990-1996). Under Trinity appointment, Graham appears missing as their preference. AK Buchanan (‘Butch’) used similar choices between his hunting-playgrounds (BBC & IGS): (A) Kim at BBC and Anthony K at Ipswich Grammar School.
Psychologists at California State University, Northridge, studied 234 professional performers, looking for a reason why mental health disorders are so common in the performing arts.
“The notion that artists and performing artists suffered more pathology, including bipolar disorder, troubled us,” dance coordinator and psychologist Paula Thomson, a co-author on the new study, told Psypost.
“No one seemed willing to also include the effects of early childhood adversity and adult trauma and its influence on creativity and psychopathology.”
The study examined 83 actors, directors, and designers; 129 dancers; and 20 musicians and opera singers. These study participants filled out self-report surveys pertaining to childhood adversity, sense of shame, creative experiences, proneness to fantasies, anxiety, and level of engagement in an activity.
The participants were able to be categorised into three groups: those who reported a high level of childhood adversity; those who had experienced a lower or medium level; and those who had experienced little to none.null
It’s the high-level group that demonstrated the greater extremes. These performing artists had much higher anxiety, much more internalised shame, and reported more cumulative past traumatic events. They were also more prone to fantasies.
But they also seemed more connected with the creative process, the researchers said. They were more aware of it, and reported feeling more absorbed in it. They reported heightened awareness of a state of inspiration and a sense of discovery during the process.
They were also able to move more easily between the state of absorption and a more distant state for critical awareness, and were more receptive to art.
“Lastly,” the researchers wrote, “[this] group identified greater appreciation for the transformational quality of creativity, in particular, how the creative process enabled a deeper engagement with the self and world. They recognised that it operated as a powerful force in their life.”
Obviously the study has caveats, as self-reported studies can be prone to personal bias. Also, since it was limited to performing artists, comparisons couldn’t easily be made with other subsets of the population.
Nevertheless, the finding, the researchers said, may indicate that adult performers who have experienced childhood adversity are better able to recognise and value the creative process; and the ability of that group to enjoy the creative process could indicate resilience.
“We are saddened by the number of participants in our study who have suffered multiple forms of childhood adversity as well as adult assaults (both sexual and non-sexual),” Thomson told Psypost.
“So many participants in our sample have experienced poly-traumatization and yet they also embrace their passion for performance and creativity. They are embracing ways to express all that is human.”
Long suspected throughout many CSA Victims’ childhoods, in 2018 Scientific Alert published the following article on the proven-identified link: “Scientists Have Found a Strong Link Between a Terrible Childhood And Being Intensely Creative”. Opening with ‘exposure to abuse, neglect or a dysfunctional family’ throughout a victim’s childhood, expands to join together how these impacts have a clear linkage. Complemented through Counselling and verifying some Victims’ long-held suspicions, this Article gives another (Scientific/Journalistic) POV – which may also satisfy those of us who often felt disbelieved, palmed-away or ignored. We knew what we were/had survived; we just didn’t know how to word, or should I say ‘Scientifically categorise’ what we ‘endured’! … WTF ?!!!… we were only young, innocent kids at their time: the perfect hunting ground, for these Criminal-Pedophilic-Dirty-(typically)-Senior/Old-(WO)-Men.
I apologise for going off on an emotional-outburst, yet this is a toned-down form of many of the conversations had with Victims, Parents and Relations; Thankfully, their mutual aim is to protect this triggering news from younger Siblings; As horrifying as this possibility is to consider, perhaps this is (another) layer of defence which the Criminal-Pedophilic-Dirty-(typically)-Senior/Old-(WO)-Men know of + exploit. Having (naturally?) always having entered the Arts, this Article gives many reasons and answers questions, yet more interests may be shown. Perhaps this is an underlying advantage of Creativity, yet CSA Survivours I’ve spent any time with each have their own ‘checklists’ to work through. At this point, I’ll aim to re-publish the complete Article ASAP, in addition to again providing the Private + Confidential Counsellors. Of great interest, is the amount of focus I am working through with my Counsellor on the “minor and inconsiderate” events, which are actually mounting up to explain the devastating impact which may result.
Hopes are that each of you, your loved ones and each of our ecosystems copes alright throughout this COVID19 Pandemic.
Hope Bastine was brought up in a “free love” community where sexual abuse of children was rife. As her abuser Derek Lincoln is finally brought to justice, she speaks to Sharon Hendry
Sharon HendrySunday August 09 2020, 12.01am BST, The Sunday Times
For years I have suffered from raging insomnia, and as usual I was pacing the streets of my local town centre fuelled with adrenaline after a poor night’s sleep. I found myself in front of a drab police station and suddenly there was a eureka moment.
I was ready to break the codes of the deeply secretive religious organisation I had been born into and tell the story of horrific, repeated abuse that has haunted me for more than 40 years. So, just like that, in 2004 I walked into Watford police station and reported to the desk: “I want to talk to somebody about some abuse please.”
Throughout the counselling I am regularly receiving, something which often gets raised is that although there’s quite a list of TYPES of child sexual abuse:
emotional or mental abuse, and
sexual abuse and includes signs, symptoms, and behavioral indicators of abuse.
There may be other TYPES, yet this is just a small example of where ‘traditional’ understanding clashes with the actual impact, victims try to live with, 247, also coping with COVID-19, trying to deal with Climate Change …
For many survivors, counselling may be the first time they have ever disclosed the abuse. They may have been locked into silence for years or even decades. Telling the counsellor can bring tremendous relief. On the other hand, some survivors may have revealed the abuse previously, only to be met with disbelief or rejection. Being heard and believed for the first time is an immensely important experience.
Trust is a difficult issue for most survivors of abuse. They may find it impossible to trust anyone: anyone could be a potential abuser. Others, though, have a problem with trusting too easily. As children, they weren’t able to learn who to trust and who not to, so in adult life, they are not able to use their gut instinct to recognise situations that would make other people feel uncomfortable. This means they can find themselves getting into abusive relationships and dangerous situations.
Counsellors are trained to be trustworthy with respect to confidentiality, reliability and other boundary issues. Experiencing a trusting relationship with the counsellor allows the client to re-set their capacity to trust other human beings.
Childhood sexual abuse is traumatic in many different ways, and children often learn to protect themselves by splitting off their awareness of the abuse. This process is called dissociation, and it is almost like self-hypnosis.
A consequence of dissociation can be that adult survivors experience terrifying flashbacks of the abuse, which don’t feel like real memories. A trained counsellor can help the client to understand the process of dissociation, so that they are less frightened, and can begin to re-integrate their memories.
Many survivors have feelings of intense shame, which they carry with them all the time. Telling their story to a counsellor, who is always non-judgmental, allows them to see things from a different perspective. They may realise for the first time just how young and vulnerable they were when the abuse took place.
The counsellor will emphasise that a child is never to blame, no matter how persuasively the abuser tells them that they are. Hearing from an expert that their experience was typical can bring huge release from shame. Instead, feelings of anger and grief may surface, which the counsellor can help to deal with safely.
Counselling for sexual abuse
Counsellors who are trained and experienced in working with sexual abuse are used to hearing very shocking and upsetting accounts. For the client, being able to share details which once seemed unbearable for another person to hear can bring great comfort, and again can help to dissolve feelings of shame. Current issues, no matter how painful, can be brought up in a supportive, non-judgmental environment.
For the counsellor and client to work through the many issues arising from childhood sexual abuse can take a while, but eventually, the aim is that the client feels ready to move on, leaving counselling feeling more empowered and more free to live their life.
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services statistics for 2006, approximately 905,000 U.S. children were found to have been maltreated that year, with 16% of them reported as physically abused (the remainder having suffered sexual abuse or neglect.)1 In other studies, it’s been noted that approximately 14-43% of children have experienced at least one traumatic abusive event prior to adulthood.2 And according to The American Humane Association (AHA), an estimated 1,460 children died in 2005 of abuse and neglect.3
The AHA defines physical child abuse as “non-accidental trauma or physical injury caused by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child.”3 However, it can be challenging to draw the line between physical discipline and child abuse. When does corporal punishment cease to be a style of parenting and become an abusive behavior that is potentially traumatizing for its child victims in the long-term?
A recent episode of the popular television show Dr. Phil featured a woman whose extreme disciplinarian tactics later resulted in her arrest and prosecution for child abuse. A featured video showed her forcing her young adopted son to hold hot sauce in his mouth and take a cold shower as punishment for lying. Audience members were horrified—as was Dr. Phil—but the woman insisted that she couldn’t find a better way to control her child. Many child abusers are not aware when their behavior becomes harmful to a child or how to deal with their own overwhelm before they lose their tempers.
At its core, any type of abuse of children constitutes exploitation of the child’s dependence on and attachment to the parent.
Another therapeutic term that is used in conjunction with child abuse is “interpersonal victimization.” According to the book Childhood victimization: violence, crime, and abuse in the lives of young people by David Finkelhor, interpersonal victimization can be defined as “…harm that comes to individuals because other human[s] have behaved in ways that violate social norms.”5 This sets all forms of abuse apart from other types of trauma-causing-victimization like illness, accidents, and natural disasters.
Finkelhor goes on to explain: “Child victimizations do not fit neatly into conventional crime categories. While children suffer all the crimes that adults do, many of the violent and deviant behaviors engaged in by human[s] to harm children have ambiguous status as crimes. The physical abuse of children, although technically criminal, is not frequently prosecuted and is generally handled by social-control agencies other than the police and criminal courts. “5
What happens to abused children?
In some cases—depending on the number of reports made, the severity of the abuse, and the available community resources—children may be separated from their parents and grow up in group homes or foster care situations, where further abuse can happen either at the hands of other abused children who are simply perpetuating a familiar patterns or the foster parents themselves. In 2004, 517,000 children were living in foster homes, and in 2005, a fifth of reported child abuse victims were taken out of their homes after child maltreatment investigations.6 Sometimes, children do go back to their parents after being taken away, but these statistics are slim. It’s easy to imagine that foster care and group home situations, while they may ease the incidence of abuse in a child’s life, can lead to further types of alienation and trauma.
For children that have suffered from abuse, it can be complex getting to the root of childhood trauma in order to alleviate later symptoms as adults. The question is, how does child abuse turn into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder later in life? What are the circumstances that cause this to happen in some cases and not others?
Statistics show that females are much more likely than males to develop PTSD as a result of experiencing child abuse. Other factors that help determine whether a child victim will develop PTSD include:7
The degree of perceived personal threat.
The developmental state of the child: Some professionals surmise that younger children, because they are less likely to intellectually understand and interpret the effects of a traumatic situation, may be less at risk for long-term PTSD).
The relationship of the victim to the perpetrator.
The level of support the victim has in his day-to-day life as well as the response of the caregiver(s).
Guilt: A feeling of responsibility for the attack (“I deserve it”) is thought to exacerbate the changes of PTSD.
Resilience: the innate ability to cope of the individual.
The child’s short-term response to abuse: For instance, an elevated heart rate post-abuse has been documented as increasing the likelihood that the victim will be later suffer from PTSD.
Carolyn Knight wrote a book called Working With Adult Survivors of Childhood Trauma that states: “Trauma, by definition, is the result of exposure to an inescapably stressful event that overwhelms a person’s coping mechanisms.”6 She points out that an important aspect of an event (or pattern of events) is that it exceeds the victim’s ability to cope and is therefore overwhelming. A child should not have to cope with abuse, and when abuse occurs, a child is not equipped psychologically to process it. The adults in their lives are meant to be role models on how to regulate emotions and provide a safe environment.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, some of the particular symptoms of child PTSD include:8
Frequent memories and/or talk of the traumatic event(s)
Once a child has grown to be an adult, however, symptoms of PTSD can become more subtle as he or she learns how to cope with this in day-to-day life. The symptoms of PTSD can be quite general and can mimic other disorders: depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, problems with alcohol and drugs, sleep issues, and eating disorders are just a few. Many have problems in their relationships and trusting another person again. Many even end up in abusive relationships and find themselves re-enacting the past.
Community support is a vital tool in preventing child abuse and the PTSD that can result from it. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from child abuse, please report it to your local Child Protection Services — or the police, if a child is in immediate danger. The longer that abuse continues, the higher the risk of causing severe symptoms.
If you or a loved one may be suffering from delayed effects of trauma due to childhood abuse, I encourage you to make a therapyappointment with someone who specializes in trauma and who can put you on a path of healing.
1 Child Maltreatment 2006. Washington DC: US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children Youth and Families Children’s Bureau; 2008. 1-194